The growing influence of the senior market will have a very unique and direct impact on food manufacturers — effecting everything from packaging to product development. In the next decade, American baby boomers will drive an estimated $50 billion in incremental CPG growth. According to The Nielsen Company, 2037 will be our “oldest” year, with more than 30% of households headed by a person over the age of 65 – and almost 50% of those households will be a single person.

Already many health and beauty care products on the market — and some food products — are targeted toward seniors for the prevention and treatment of health concerns including heart health, joint health, digestive health, bone health and memory retention.

This emphasis on helping seniors age well has important implications for food manufacturers, most notably meat processors.

Reducing the decline in muscle mass among the elderly is crucial to maintaining their health and independence, say scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston The good news is that older bodies are just as good as young ones at turning protein-rich food into muscle. They add that consuming adequate protein is essential for making and maintaining muscles.

Seniors generally have a good perception of meat, having grown up on meals in the traditional fashion of a protein, vegetable and starch. Yet many seniors aren’t getting enough meat in their diets.

Older adults need at least 5 ounces, or two servings, of protein a day, and they have clear preferences when it comes to meat preparation. Older shoppers are most likely to prepare fresh meat on a regular basis, and they are more likely to buy the meat in a supermarket (AMI).

When examining the Perishables Group’s Spectra Consumer Profiles, which index sales across 60 consumer microsegments made up of 10 BehaviorStages
and six LifeStyles, ready-made items such as prepared beef and chicken index low with seniors, while meat preparation items such as meat marinades/sauces/
seasonings and meat condiments/spreads index high. This makes sense, considering the National Institute of Health’s findings that seniors like bold but not spicy flavors, including high-umami flavors. Foods such as meats, fish, aged cheese and aromatic herbs and spices have high appeal with seniors.

However, seniors are not brand-loyal when it comes to meat (AMI). Suppliers need to provide an incremental value or service with the product, which provides an advantage for value-added meats. Value-added meats offer many of the flavor benefits seniors look for, especially meats in marinade. They also cut down on preparation work, which can be difficult for seniors with arthritis. This leaves considerable opportunity for value-added meat manufacturers to reach out and gain additional business from the senior population.

Implications for Meat Processors

Leading suppliers are paying close attention to the needs of older consumers. Many seniors have smaller household sizes and health considerations that affect packaging options for them. Impaired vision and limited fine motor skills mean some seniors can not choose certain food options simply because the packaging does not accommodate their abilities. Features such as easy-open packaging, larger print and easy-grip containers make shopping considerably easier for seniors.

CPG manufacturer Kimberly-Clark conducts a ground-breaking program in which it works with retail executives to simulate the shopping experience of older adults to demonstrate the necessity of revamping stores and products to accommodate the growing group of older Americans.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the senior years can be as long as 30 years, creating a diverse and segmented market among the senior group as a whole. Retailers and suppliers must figure out their target market and tailor efforts/products toward them. The key lies in understanding the health and functionality features that seniors want in their foods without the sacrifice of flavor - and use meat as a driver. It is also imperative to appeal to seniors via various outlets, including the Web. Companies including Target are using larger font and bolder graphics on their Websites to help accommodate the large number of 50-plus women with deteriorating eyesight. This is especially important because older adults are the fastest growing group of Internet users.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people over the age of 65 spend more than $7 billion per year online.

The Perishables Group is an independent consulting firm focused on innovation and creating value for clients in the fresh food industry.